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Was that it?
5/27/18 5:49 PM
I have a few questions about cessations as I recently experienced a strange event during meditation (on Wednesday afternoon and now it is Sunday). I reached out to Shannon Stein, but since I don't report to her (or anyone) at regular intervals the way some people do with their teachers, it's tough to track progress especially because the nanas aren't so clear to me. I described this event that happened in my meditation to Shannon and she suggested I should consult others because she doesn't want to make a call that could be false and because so many teachers have differing standards/definitions about cessations.

For background, my practice includes a smattering of TMI on the cushion as well as noting with labels throughout my day. I also practice metta and fire kasina from time to time. I made resolutions last summer to be as mindful as I possibly could off the cushion after reading about Noah's success with freestyle noting. I love Alohadharma, the Dharma Overground (DhO), r/Streamentry as well as MCTB and lately I've been practicing a moment to moment awareness of things that is both fast and inclusive similar to what Daniel Ingram advocates. I believe that I have followed the Path of Insight pretty loosely in daily life, having had to deal with panic attacks/anxiety/fear in the fall and winter. I've never had panic attacks before beginning with this experiment to be mindful as much as possible and this period of my life is pretty low stress compared to college. These panic attacks are brought on by uncomfortable sensations in the body and then I get paranoid that my body is shutting down/dying. I've been to the doctor though and had blood work and an EKG done so I'm in the clear and it seems it's all in my head. I was then hit with a lot of disenchantment with life in the spring (occasionally have panic attacks but fewer with less severity). I have wanted to just shirk all responsibilities and take a break from everything. As of the last 2 months, I've been feeling more normal and I'm super interested in sitting more than usual (fast and inclusive noting) and making much more of an effort to be more mindful during my day off cushion. At the beginning of this week, there was sort of an odd anticipation if I reflect on it, but since I have trouble tracking nanas (tied to doubts that this whole meditation experiment may actually be working), I didn't think about it and continued to watch sensate experience come and go. To note: I have read a lot about equanimity on different blogs, forums, and books and didn't experience anything dreamy or smooth or the formations as described in MCTB. I just felt normal. Less stressed than usual and not so "disenchanted" with life.

On Wednesday afternoon, after really being mindful from the time I got up in the morning, I was sitting outside for a few minutes at work watching a bird in the grass. I was taking note of every time the bird would move its head. Birds have fast twitch muscles so this bird was always making very jerky sort of movements and looked like individual frames in a movie. I was watching this bird for the sole purpose of watching these "frames" come and go. Here's where it gets strange: At one point, I got really interested/focussed/absorbed on this bird's movements and then suddenly it felt like my mind synched up with something related to one of these individual frames going/passing away. This synching-up felt like a bike chain catching the teeth of a gear. After synching up, it was like my mind/consciousness (I'm struggling to find a word for this) zoned-in/honed-in on something and then it felt like there was a connection or merging with that experience (sorry for being ambiguous but it isn't easy to describe). This was immediately followed by a rushing sound in both of my ears (sounds like if you were to whisper "fffwip"). Right after that sound, a wave of relief traveled down my body which started at my head and made its way down to my feet over the course of a second or two. This entire sequence from the synching-up to the end of the wave of relief lasted maybe 1-3 seconds (tough to gauge). I was really relaxed after this wave of relief (bliss wave?). My immediate thought was "Was that it?" It was very different from anything I've ever experienced, but I am still pretty skeptical that it was a cessation. I know people mix up cessations with other events all the time and I am hesitant to jump to conclusions. To note: I was pretty relaxed for the rest of the day after that. Things also felt sort of profound for the afternoon/evening, but that has since worn off a tad.

Also, my meditations up to this point have tended to be uneventful and I don't have any previous experiences with kundalini/energy or anything like that, so the "bliss wave" I experienced was nothing like I have ever experienced before. It was very real and palpable. However, it didn't seem like reality "winked" at me the way Ron Crouch describes it on his site or any of the 3 doors descriptions in MCTB (granted Daniel wrote that section after having many cessations/fruitions so I'm not too concerned). If I used Kenneth Folk's "An Idiots Guide to Dharma Diagnosis" thread on the DhO, then I'd say yes, that was a cessation. It doesn't feel like there were frames edited out, but it feels like there was an entrance and an exit to something and I have no idea if there was an "unknowing" event in between. It's like my mind leapt fully into one frame of experience and then a rushing noise and a bliss wave.

As of now, I haven't had many opportunities to sit so I'll have to look for review cycling (again, I'm not so adept at recognizing nanas) or if I can now cultivate the first four samatha jhanas which have eluded me. I'm also going to reread Mahasi's book tomorrow since I looked at it almost a year ago. 

I guess I'm here looking for some opinions about what this could have been or if it is in line with other practitioners' meditative experiences. Also, is there any extra advice that people might like to share? I plan on making resolutions just in case. I'm a pretty skeptical person though so I'll take the age old advice of waiting a year and a day before drawing a conclusion. If this wasn't a cessation, that's alright too. It just means that I have some more work to do  

Thank you all!

RE: Was that it?
5/27/18 6:28 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
As you describe it I'd wager that what you experienced was an A&P event. Here's some information from Daniel Ingram about A&P:

RE: Was that it?
5/27/18 7:29 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hello Chris, 

Thank you for your reply! I'm pretty familiar with the stages of insight (I just have trouble tracking them in my own experience) having read about them here on the DhO (including Daniel's essay on the A&P), in MCTB, Alohadharma, etc. I know that there is much variation in the experience of A&P from practioner to practitioner and some of those reports sound very fantastic and intense. With the understanding that I'm not dismissing your dharma diagnosis: Could you maybe explain your reasoning for determining A&P? 

For some background: I have had some far-out experiences after consuming various psychedelics (about 2-3 years ago) which included unitive experiences (palpable feelings like I was connected to and part of God/the Universe/everyone) and other amazing perspectives and such. I would include those under the umbrella of A&P for sure (and I understand fully that just dabbling in these things doesn't mean mastery of territory). 

Before psychedelics, I always felt like I was on a "search" for something deeper anyway which led me to try these questionable subtances in the first place. I know that Daniel usually chimes in that people who are interested in these meditative traditions and posting on forums such as these are probably in the dark night/dukkha nanas and I have personally been lurking on this site for close to 2 years now. This period doesn't include the first few years before that when I was sort of lost and had read many dharma books but didn't really know what I was supposed to do on the cushion.

Just to be clear: the synching/honing/merging description I used in my original post above was not unitive in the sense that I had from psychedelics. It was like the mind or the mechanism of observation got pulled into a single passing away of experience. 

That said, maybe it is A&P, and I'll continue the investigation. Thank you emoticon

RE: Was that it?
5/27/18 10:12 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
It sounds like possible Stream Entry to me, at least the way I define it.  Some things that stood out in your description were: 

1.  That it happened out of the blue.  Given that you weren't activly striving for an attainment, it's less likely to be 'in your head'.
2.  The synching / merging + the 'fwipp' sound is highly reminiscent of the sort of percepetual experience that occurs with genuine attainment - at all levels.
3.  The fact that you immediately had a major bliss wave - note 2 seems significant, and that it was followed by a major bliss wave seems to line up pretty clearly with the way MCTB stream entry is decribed and experienced.
4.  That you feel residually chilled out - this is a noteable characteristic of stream entry.  Certainly it fades somewhat in strength, but you should notice a permenant, if subtle, shift in baseline experience.

I experinced stream entry in a text book way - followed the cycle of insight up to equanimity, got lost in thought, had a gap in experience then a bliss wave.  I know other people who I'm sure also got stream entry, but experienced it differently from myself (also, neither was following MCTB, and one was largely wholly unaware of it).  What convinced me that they had gained it was their description of a meditative shift / insight, followed by a weight being lifted, and a post-experience chill.  Your experince sounds disctintly similar. 

Another note - one way to test it is to practice running through the review cycle.  If you can call up repeated fruitions - resulting in a repeat exprience of body bliss - that's a good way to confirm it.  Generally speaking, additionally, concentation should now be somewhat enhanced.

(Sorry for the spelling!)

RE: Was that it?
5/27/18 11:56 PM as a reply to T DC.
Hello T DC,

Thank you for your input! 

As to your first point: I wasn't striving at that moment in time particularly. I mean, as a practioner of what I'd consider "pragmatic dharma", there seems to be over-arching striving to get somewhere with practice and the path. That's just natural and a part of life and I've been able to accept that. That striving has of course been noted time and time again during my meditation sessions, whether it is in the background or the foreground.  However, one of the quotes that has guided my practice these last 2 months has been from MCTB:
"Obviously there is a bit of a paradox here relating to effort and surrender. In many ways it is at the heart of the spiritual life. There is a lot of advice available on this point, but in terms of insight meditation practice I would say this: If when meditating you can perceive the arising and passing of phenomena clearly and consistently, that is enough effort, so allow this to show itself naturally and surrender to it."
Basically, this quote has been really instrumental in the way that I handle each formal sit: Just pay attention to everything (to the best of one's ability) arising and passing and stop getting neurotic about whether I'm doing it correctly or whether I'll have a unique experience. As is mentioned in MCTB (paraphrasing): the truth is found in the ordinary sensations that make up one's life. 

From points 2 & 3, I feel that I've read many accounts of stream entry and that the experience I had last Wednesday matches many of those accounts. People have different interpretations/experiences though so that is why I'm asking. Some people seem to have intense kundalini phenomena rushing up their spine and exploding through their crown chakra, and some people just hear a "click" or some others realize that they are now at the bottom of the breath when they had JUST been at the top of the breath but there was no perception of that transition. 

As far as your fourth point is concerned: that chilled out feeling only lasted that day. However, and this probably is not a reliable marker at all, I've felt different ever since Wednesday after this happened. It's honestly so subtle (honestly can't describe what "feeling different" means) that it's probably not worth mentioning because I cannot put my finger on what is different. Either way, it's like there has been an extremely subtle shift in the way I relate to the various details of my life (which have obviously not changed) in the last few days. Very well could be a placebo effect, you know? 

Anyway, thank you for your input! 

I'll keep practicing to see if there is any cycling in the meantime and hopefully I can provide some more data points on this thread. Sharing your experience has been helpful emoticon 

RE: Was that it?
5/28/18 7:49 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
With the understanding that I'm not dismissing your dharma diagnosis: Could you maybe explain your reasoning for determining A&P? 

Please dismiss away if you prefer!

I was making an educated guess. Your narrative reminded me of many A&P events I had. Honestly, no one here really knows what happened to you because the range of experience is so broad among all practitioners. In my experience, there was a very big difference between A&P events and stream entry, that difference being a clear, undeniable cessation. What I wrote after the experience:

While observing an object in meditation – let’s say the breath entering and leaving my nostrils – I perceive a slow building of energy and focus. The in-breath starts to bring a very fine set of vibrations in the top of the head and an almost giddy mental feeling, sort of like a tiny whiff of laughing gas, that grows as the breath is drawn and until it is at its peak. The peak of the breath brings a sharp distinct break and when the out-breath starts that same energetic and finely vibrating giddy feeling resumes (this not a hyperventilation-like giddiness). Each successive breath slowly increases the intensity of these fine vibrations until a kind of crescendo is reached, at which point all the energy that has built up quickly flows to the observed object, appears to merge with the object and then FLASH!, an image appears, a complex image, for just a tiny fraction of a second, after which everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – winks out of existence. Pure pitch black, silent nothingness ensues (no sound, no light, no feeling, no self, no perception of any kind) and lasts for about a second or so. Then awareness reappears anew. The impression after the second or so of nothingness reminds me of the rebooting of a computer. Everything is turned completely off and then restarts.

That said, people have different kinds of things happen to them and the only real way to diagnose them, if we can at all, is to wait and see. 

RE: Was that it?
5/28/18 8:35 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I don't believe I have ever experienced a cessation, so understand that I have no clue what I'm talking about. 

However, I do think that I have experienced events similar to what you describe. It sounds like you got really really absorbed in what you were observing. And, you were really tuned into all of your senses in that moment. And, you were probably so absorbed, that you were able to release a lot of unneccessary tension that you had been carrying around due to the rest of your human problems which you realized had nothing to do with the bird. 

The events which have happened to me, I can describe as something like "I never realized before how rich this particular experience is. I am actually OK being right here, right now, because this is enough for me." It is a very liberating feeling. I am assuming these are A&P events (I did think it was stream entry when I first read about stream entry).

Not sure if you relate to what I'm saying, but please feel free to ignore it if you don't!